Grimsby Town Season Preview: Mills impresses

Some will say that a 14th place finish represents a solid first season back in the Football League for Grimsby Town, who had endured six years in the non-league abyss. Others though, might suggest it isn’t good enough for a club that had graced the second tier within the last two decades and has one of the higher attendances in League Two. The Football Lab speaks to supporter Paul Maddison about last season’s efforts and the chances the Mariners have this term.

If you had asked if I’d take 14th at the start of the season I’d have snapped your hand off. However with a couple of months left of the season we weren’t too far from the play offs. Some strange team selections, and bad performances, quickly squashed any dreams of reaching the play offs.

A lot of your defenders had praise last season and yet you shipped 3+ goals on six occasions after Paul Hurst left. Was this down to midfield and tactical problems, rather than individual defenders?

While Marcus Bignot was in charge players were often played out of possession which didn’t help and the team didn’t seem to really know their roles, but there were plenty of individually errors too. I’m sure Russell Slade will have them drilled well with everyone knowing exactly what is expected.

Nathan Clarke was part of Slade’s Orient side that reached the League One play-off final in 2014. With other centre-backs leaving, do you expect him to partner Danny Collins?

I’d imagine so at the moment, obviously their is plenty of time for players to come in still, but there would certainly be a lot of experience in that partnership.

Player of the Year Danny Andrew has left for Doncaster. Is another left-back needed?

Yeah definitely, the two main priorities at the moment have to be left back and a striker. Gutted he left, but can’t argue Danny Andrew deserves to be playing at a higher level especially after the season he had. He pretty much won every award at the player of the year awards

Right-back Zak Mills had a good 16/17 campaign. Given that he’s only ever played in non-league, are you impressed with how he’s adapted to this level?

From the moment he stepped in to cover for Ben Davies he has looked quality. I don’t think many people expected him to step up so quickly and with such ease, but I’d be very surprised if he’s not first choice right back next season.

The decision to end captain Craig Disley’s six-year association with Grimsby Town has saddened a lot of supporters. Will he be fondly remembered at the club?

Absolutely, the word legend is banded about too often nowadays, but the Ginger Pirlo is worth the title. He got us back into the league and you can tell he was as much of a fan as anyone else on the ‘terraces’. He’s done as much off the pitch for this club as he has on it and I’ve never herd a bad word said about him. However you can’t be too sentimental in football and in all honesty it was probably the right time to move. Not helping matters was players in the same position still with a year on their contract.

You’ve got a lot of midfielders in your squad, with youngster Harry Clifton signing a new deal. Was Mitch Rose a necessary signing?

I’ve not seen much of Rose as we’ve only played a couple of local teams in friendlies so far, but if he improves the team then he’ll be a welcome addition. Anyway with our midfield I’m sure he will fit in to what I presume will be a 2-7-1 formation.

Your other signings include Sam Kelly and Siriki Dembele. Could a club of your size have been bolder in the transfer market?

To be honest I don’t know much about Kelly but we were really lacking width at times last season so hopefully he’ll do a good job out wide. I’m very excited about Dembele, he looks quick, skilful and isn’t afraid to beat his man. I really think this could be a big season for him and the width these two provide could be great for Scott Vernon. We’ve had a few very experienced trialists playing in the last few days so hopefully the boldness in the market is coming. Slade likes his teams organised and I’m sure he knows exactly what these players will bring.

Omar Bogle went to Wigan at the end of January. What affect did this have on the team? And who can score the goals in his absence?

Of course a player who scores 20 goals by January is going to be missed, a club our size can’t reject that sort of money though. It probably did have a slight negative affect on the team, but Omar was just one player and football’s an 11 a side game. To be fair I can see the goals being shared around a lot more this season. Sam Jones has been brilliant since signing in January and has chipped in with quite a few. Adi Yussuf and Vernon have found the net a few times so far in pre season. With the right system I can see them coming good. When you’ve got Jamey Osborne slotting them in from inside his own half in pre season too. Akwasi Asante is also coming back from injury. I would like to see another striker on the books though.

Trialist striker Harry Cardwell has had a good start to pre-season. Could a permanent deal be on the cards?

I’m not sure to be honest, we’ve had a few trialists turn out over the last couple of weeks, but we’ve not played anyone of any calibre, for example we played Scunthorpe yesterday. Before judging properly I’d like to see how he does a against better quality teams.

What are your thoughts ahead of the League Two season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

I really am struggling to pick a winner, I’ve got doubts over nearly all the clubs at the top of the betting. Mansfield will have a tough job gelling all their new players. The relegated teams all have their own problems. Think with the 3 teams getting promoted last season this will make this a very close league that quite a few will fancy their chances at. Really baffled by Lincoln being 4th favourites and being tipped by many. As for dark horses, they’re very unlikely to win the league but I think Newport will surprise quite a few and will be well away from relegation (Cheltenham and Yeovil). Newport finished the season very strongly surviving on the last day, keeping quite a few clean sheets in the final weeks. If I had to pick a winner I’d say Luton, they look to have done some decent business.

Where will you finish? We have to be annoying and remind you that you said top 10 last summer…

If we sign a decent LB and CF then a playoff push isn’t out the question, so 7th if we do, 12th if not.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

Summer business hands Grimsby a squad unnecessarily top-heavy with midfielders. Mills and Osborne have stepped up well from non-league, but it’s surprising that more hasn’t been spent to bolster an aging defence and uninspiring front line. 17th